Project kick-off meetings are critical to a successful project launch and not having a plan in place for how to structure the meeting can have the project start off on the wrong foot. The project is new, some of the project team members most likely have other time commitments, and stakeholders and team members may not know what is expected of them yet, so it is important to prepare and be intentional with how you lead this meeting.
Regardless of how formal, informal, small, or large a project is, having an official project kick-off meeting ensures everyone is aligned and understands the project goals and their roles. Here are some guidelines you can follow to ensure you have a successful project kick-off.
- Create an agenda to keep everyone focused on the meeting goals. Send out the agenda a few days to a week in advance and ask everyone to review ahead of time.
- Draft the project charter (if not already done). It is not necessary to send this out prior to the meeting; however, it should be circulated with the project sponsor and key stakeholders for feedback and input.
- Meet with your project sponsor and key stakeholders prior to meeting with the team. This is to ensure there is alignment prior to the kick-off meeting and prior to sharing the charter with the entire team. They also may want to have time during the meeting to speak to the team about the project so ensure you add that time slot to the agenda.
- Create a team assignment roster to include roles and responsibilities and share it with the managers of each project team member. Ensure that they agree with the time commitment required and can share with their team prior to the meeting to set expectations.
During the meeting:
- Start with introductions even if everyone is familiar with each other. Starting by welcoming everyone and with a simple, informal introduction including their name, position in the company, and department. This helps start the meeting and is a good segway into sharing the meeting agenda (don’t spend a lot of time discussing the agenda).
- Discuss the project charter to guide you through the project introduction and why the project exists, the goals, vision, scope, high-level timelines, and deliverables. Make sure you spend time sharing what is specifically within scope and beyond the scope of the project. This can help you get ahead of scope creep or avoid the meeting going in the wrong direction. At this time, you may also want to share the team assignment roster and discuss team roles and the project’s time commitment. Tip: If a copy of the charter is passed out during the meeting, you may risk the team reading ahead and losing focus on your message. I recommend discussing it or sharing parts of it on a screen/projector but try to keep the focus on the discussion rather than reading the material.
- Have a Q&A segment for any additional questions not covered. If you have team members remote and dialing-in, ensure they have a chance to ask questions and speak up at this time.
- Thank everyone for their time as obvious as it seems. You may get distracted or sidetracked while leading the meeting and covering the agenda, so make it a point to remember to do so before adjourning.
- Let the team know the next steps and logistics for what to expect after the meeting and how often you will meet as a team. Will you be sending out meeting notes, the charter, the assignment roster, recurring project meeting invite, focus group sessions, etc.? Will you be utilizing a tool to organize the project and share project documents?
As a project leader, structuring your project kick-off meeting can help set the tone for success for your project. Do you have any other tips for how to structure a project kick-off meeting?
Mona Mortazavi, MBA, PMP, LSSGB is a project and change management professional based in Houston, Texas. In her current role, she manages enterprise-wide programs and process improvement initiatives for Waste Management in Corporate Finance, previously in Supply Chain Operations. Mona’s primary experience has been in leading software implementation projects and process improvement transformation initiatives in the finance, supply chain, real estate, and human resources disciplines. With experience in the utilities and environmental services industries, her true focus is in creating best practice programs for the projects she leads. Mona writes about project planning and change management.